Passport Peter Gordon: 'We were being pushed to the edge by a growling, dribbling, probably rabid monkey'

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The Independent Travel
NEW Zealand chef Peter Gordon and his boyfriend, Michael, recently travelled to South Africa to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

"Cape Town is a beautiful city and we ate fantastic food, but I hated it," says Peter. "It was so racist. We met a lot of white South Africans who became increasingly racist the more they talked to us. They would say: 'You don't understand, you haven't lived here', and my response was 'I didn't live in Nazi Germany but I know it was wrong to gas the Jews'. It is going to take a long, long time for South Africa to change."

Like many young Kiwis, Peter once spent a year back-packing around Asia visiting Bali, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and India.

"Early one morning, we were trying to leave Jakarta by ferry. We had a terrifying journey with two taxis. The first driver said he didn't want to take us and then, when we got into another cab, decided that he did. He was trying to rip us off. It resulted in a punch-up between the drivers, and the woman in the car with me got punched, too. Then there was a mad car chase through the streets of Jakarta - almost bowling over schoolchildren. It was like a bad scene from a movie. We made it to the ferry on time but I was worried that the first driver might have followed us on to the ferry."

Later on, Peter met up with his sister and they travelled in Nepal. "We were visiting a temple and we got attacked by a monkey. I accidentally scared it and it cornered us on a ledge above a ravine where they burned bodies. We were being pushed towards the edge by this growling, dribbling, probably rabid monkey. Luckily, as a kid, I used to watch lots of nature programmes and I was aware that you should treat animals as if you are the same species. So I stooped down and started growling back at the monkey and we were able to push it back and escape."

Although Peter's main priority was to have fun, he couldn't help soaking up the culinary influences of Asia. "It was great eating Thai food in Thailand, Burmese food in Burma. In Asia, so much cooking is done on the street so it's easy to see how they do it. It became the best cooking lesson I've ever had."

After all this travelling, Peter says he was looking forward to "having my own coffee cup and sleeping in the same bed for more than two nights in a row". He returned to New Zealand and, with friends, set up the original Sugar Club restaurant in Wellington.

Peter left New Zealand in1989 with his English boyfriend, Michael, and moved to England. Peter's grandfather was British so he is entitled to both British and New Zealand passports, which makes it easy to move between the two countries. "I've been back five times in the last nine years, and will be going again in July for my Mum's wedding."

Peter Gordon is chief chef of The Sugar Club in Notting Hill Gate, west London.

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